If you work for an international company (or one that employs people from different countries) you may be tempted to use a bilingual employee for interpretation services. You may even convince yourself that you’re saving the company’s money and your own time by skipping research and not hire a professional interpreter. Would you do the same with a contract – give it for a review to anyone who can read instead of a lawyer? Odds are slim that the bilingual employee would possess the knowledge and experience in the specific areas you need. Hiring a professional avoids a host of avoidable problems.
If that hasn’t convinced you, here are other reasons to take into consideration:
Just how experienced is the bilingual staff in interpreting? It is always a good idea to give an interpreter a brief orientation of the situation and expectations that need to be met, but professional interpreters meet standards far more readily. Has the employee done any interpreting before? What if the person stalls, makes many pauses to search for adequate words, or worse yet, interprets something incorrectly? Unlike translation, there is not quiet time to carefully determine correct wording. Are you willing to bet your company’s good name? Professional interpreters are properly trained and certified, and study terminology specific to the fields they work in.
By giving additional tasks to a bilingual staff member, you may be creating a stressful situation. He or she will have to catch up on regular job responsibilities, which may cause unnecessary burden.
Is your bilingual staff aware of cultural sensitivities? Interpreting for somebody from a different country may be a daunting task. Knowing another language does not equal cultural immersion. When Nikita Khrushchev’s famous phrase “We will outlast you” was interpreted at United Nations as “We will bury you” it was viewed as a threat of attack. Mistakes of that sort can be quite expensive (product re-branding, falling stocks) or simply embarrassing.
Finally, there are some circumstances that require using a professional interpreter, such as court hearings or medical appointments. Whatever the reason, you may rest assured that professional interpreting services will render the best results.